Thursday, December 22, 2011

Easy Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Like many of you out there, I have become a Pinterest addict.  A few weeks ago, I spent hours pinning holiday cookie recipes.  One that kept popping up on my radar was a chocolate cookie made with devil's food cake mix.  It looked super easy -  so I made up my own variation.


Easy Chocolate Peppermint Cookies {makes about 4 dozen cookies}
-1 box of devil's food cake mix 
-2 tablespoons of melted butter
-2 eggs
-1/4 cup water
-crushed up candy canes...or you could use mint chocolate baking chips
-sprinkles {optional}

1. Put everything {but the candy canes} in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon.  The dough becomes very stiff, so be prepared to get an arm workout in.
2. Once all is combined, fold in the candy cane pieces.
3. Spread parchment paper out on baking sheets and spray with a little non-stick cooking spray.
4. This dough is stiff, but also very sticky.  To avoid making a mess of everything, I used two small spoons to spoon the dough out onto the baking sheets.  I filled one spoon up with dough and used the other to push it onto the baking sheet.  These cookies will spread, so only use about a quarter sized amount for each cookie.
5. Sprinkle with red and white sprinkles {optional} and bake for about 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
6. Remove pans from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before removing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

This soup is low maintenance, full of flavor, and low fat.  You can't go wrong!

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper {makes 4 small servings}
-1 pound of tomatoes {I used a pack of Trader Joe's heirloom tomatoes}
-1 large red bell pepper
-1 large onion
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1 teaspoon dry oregano {fresh or dry}
-1 teaspoon basil {fresh or dry.....if you use fresh, use a small handful}
-a little olive oil
-salt and pepper
-1/4 cup low fat evaporated milk
-about 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1. Cut the tomatoes, red pepper, and onion into large pieces and spread out on a baking pan that is lined with foil.  Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the veggies and sprinkle a little salt, pepper, and the garlic powder on top.  Toss the veggies so all are well coated and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes {until everything is tender}.
2. Remove pan from oven and set aside so that it can cool for about 20 minutes.
3. Spoon the roasted veggies into a blender and add about a cup of broth - just enough to get the blender going.  Blend until smooth {be careful if the vegetables are still hot}.
4. Pour the blended mixture into a large pot and add the evaporated milk and another cup of broth {or however much you need to achieve you desired thickness}.  Also stir in the oregano, basil, and some salt and pepper.  Bring the pot to a simmer, taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.

I ate mine with a mozzarella and goat cheese grilled cheese on a thin bagel - yum!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Low Fat Broccoli and Cheese Soup

I figured this 12 days of soups thing would take me...oh, about 12 days.  I guess I was being a little too ambitious :).

My third soup is super easy, healthy, and, might I add, so delicious. Trust me, you won't miss all the fat and calories that come with a traditional broccoli and cheese soup.

- 3 cups of broccoli, chopped
-1 small onion, diced
-3 stalks of celery, diced
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 small yellow potato {about ½ cup chopped}
-4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
-1/2 cup fat free evaporated milk
-2 ounces shredded low fat sharp cheddar {or 1/2 cup}
-olive oil, salt, and pepper

  1. In a large pot, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onions, celery, potato, and broccoli for about 5 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes – until the broccoli and potatoes are soft.
  3. Remove soup from the heat and stir in the fat free evaporated milk.  Allow to cool for about 20 minutes and blend {in batches} until smooth. 
  4. Return the smooth soup to the pot and re-heat.  Stir in the cheese and taste.  Add a little salt and some pepper.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Snickerdoodle Pear Mini Pies

This pie was a total accident.  Luckily, it was a delicious accident.

My husband loves snickerdoodles and always asks me to make them.  I usually just ignore the request, but since it was Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to indulge him.  

The night before Thanksgiving, I whipped up a batch of snickerdoodle dough and baked off half of it.   I stored the rest in the fridge thinking I would finish baking it later that weekend.

The next day {Thanksgiving}, I decided to make two different pies - banana cream and mini pear pies.  I am not a huge pie crust fan, so I used the left over snickerdoodle dough for the mini pear pies.

I wasn't too sure how they would turn out...but they ended up being a-maz-ing.  So good and so easy.  Pie crust can be a bit fussy, but this snickerdoodle crust was the opposite of fussy. If you can make cookies - you can make this crust!

Snickerdoodle Pear Mini Pies {makes 8 pies}

For the filling:
-4 pears, diced {you can also use apples or four cups of fresh berries}
-1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the Snickerdoodle Crust:
-2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup shortening
-1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
-1 1/2 cup white sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 large eggs
-cinnamon + a little sugar for dusting

**Note - you will have snickerdoodle dough left over, feel free to bake it into cookies, freeze it for later, or do what I do - eat it!  I love cookie dough :).

1. In a medium saucepan, cook the pears, brown sugar, and vanilla extract over low heat for about 10 minutes - until they are nice and syrupy.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar {for the dough}.  Add in the eggs - one at a time - and the vanilla extract.  Mix until all is completely incorporated.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly add these dry ingredients to the mixer and blend until just incorporated.
4. Put the dough into the refrigerator for a few hours so it is nice and firm when you use it for the pies.

5. Line the bottom of small ramekins with a small amount of dough.  Since this dough is much sweeter than traditional pie crust - don't make the lining too thick.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of each pie base and fill the ramekin with the cooked pears.
6. Take another small piece of dough and flatten it into a disc the size of the ramekin.  Cover the top of each dish with one of these discs and sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar.  Cut an X into the top of each mini pie and place them all onto a baking sheet lined with foil {mine bubbled over a little}.  
7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes - until the top is golden brown. 
8. Allow the pies to cool a little before serving. 

Enjoy these amazing little pies!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Let's talk about pricing

{image via here}

Yesterday, I took part in a GroopDealz deal and it didn't go over too well....

I am not sure if it was my product, the cost, or the mood of their customers.  Either way, it was a good experience and I plan on trying it again, but with a different strategy.

The headbands I chose to discount are super cute and the materials are very inexpensive.  The down side is that they take more time to make than some of my other products.

I was asked to go lower than my $9 price but I need to make a profit, so I kept it at $9.  Also, there was a comment made by a potential customer that "they are not worth $9."  

I am not offended by this comment - everyone has their own opinions and people choose to spend their money in different ways.  

What irritates me is that SO many in the handmade community devalue their products.  They price them just to cover their costs + a little more....thinking this is a positive selling strategy.  And in turn, they are breeding the idea that handmade products are not worthy of a higher price tag.

We are addicted to cheap goods and a handmade business owner cannot compete on price.

We all know that you can buy a flower headband at a big-box store for $5 or less.  If you want to spend less than $5 go buy one at a big-box store.  If you want something handmade, it going to cost a little more.

Why does it cost more? 

Because I pay myself a living wage.  

The people that manufacture the items at big-box stores are not always paid a living wage.  Also, these stores are able to keep their prices low because of the sheer volume of products they sell.

When I price my products, I consider materials, shipping materials, website fees, how long it takes me to make the product, how long I spend photographing, editing, and promoting the product, marketing costs, and a profit.

I also sell wholesale, so my wholesale price needs to be about half of my retail price and I still need to cover all of the above + make a profit.

{image via here}

If you own a handmade business and are not doing all of these things, you are selling yourself and your company short.  

If you just want to make a little extra money here and there and don't mind selling your products for far less than they are worth, that's fine, it is your choice.  But those of you who are trying to make a living need to make sure your products are priced to reflect all that went into each design.

People who buy handmade don't buy because it is the cheapest available.  

They buy handmade because they want to support local or small businesses, they like how each item is unique, they like the story of the artisan making the items...and so much more.

Handmade products cannot and never will be able to compete on price with a big-box store.  But they can blow these stores out of the water in almost every other way.

Value yourself and your products.  The right customer will pay what the product is worth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lovely DIY Designs: Doily Envelopes

Another Wednesday...another lovely DIY designs project!

lovely DIY designs is a weekly collaboration between myself and Heather of {just.lovely.things}.  Every Wednesday, one of us will share a DIY project based on our Pinterest Inspiration...or Pinspiration.

I pinned these doily envelopes a few weeks ago and am excited to share my how-to.  I am always looking for ways to spice up my packaging and love the idea of tucking my thank you card inside a cute doily envelope.

{Image pinned from here}

What you will need:

-large doilies {I used 6" ones}
-stickers or tape
-cards {I just print my thank you cards on card stock, but you could make some using index cards or old library card catalog cards {like in my pinned image}.

Step One:
Lay your card in the middle of the doily and fold over the two sides.  Then fold up the bottom piece and fold down the top piece.

Step Two:
Seal with a small sticker or a piece of washi tape {Japanese masking tape}.

I made several little envelopes and decorated the fronts with a little "thank you."

Now when I package orders, I can just pop one of these sweet little ready made notes into the box.  I love adding that extra handmade touch with each order.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Coffee Creamer

I have a confession to make  - I am addicted to fat-free french vanilla coffee creamer.  I don't know when this addiction started...I assume it was a few months ago when I bought my first bottle.

Now I cannot drink coffee without that sickeningly sweet, artificial vanilla flavor.  I have decided that the only way I can feel better about this is to make my own.

Now, I understand that making my own doesn't necessarily mean I am making a "healthy food," but I will feel a lot better drinking my concoction than drinking whatever is put in store bought vanilla creamer. 

I used an actual vanilla bean - they are a little costly, but the aroma and flavor is like nothing else.  I also used a little fat free sweetened condensed milk and some regular old skim milk and a dash of cinnamon.

The result is a flavorful, not too sweet, not chemical laden vanilla creamer that I can feel good about ingesting!

Homemade Vanilla Coffee Creamer
1 vanilla bean
1 cup fat free milk
1/4 cup fat free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1. Slice the vanilla bean with a small knife and scrape out the insides.  This will take some patience, but the flavor is SO worth it!

2. Add 1 cup of fat free milk to a liquid measuring cup and put the vanilla bean contents into the milk.

3. Add 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk to the measuring cup and pour all into a blender.  Blend for about a minute.

4. Store in an air tight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.  Shake before using as the sweetened condensed milk will settle a little.


Monday, March 07, 2011

To Die For Healthy Chocolate Cake

I am a big fan of Bethenny Frankel and have heard her sing the praises of her no butter, no egg, low fat chocolate cake but to be honest, I figured it would taste like cardboard.

Out of curiosity, I decided to try it.  I made 2 small changes - I used all purpose flour instead of oat flour and topped my cake with a little powdered sugar instead of peanut butter glaze.

In summary, I was wrong.  So wrong.  This cake is to die for.  Ridiculously easy to make and so rich and delicious.  I made it in less than 10 minutes, baked it for 35 minutes and ate in within a few days.  So good!

To Die For Healthy Chocolate Cake (adapted from Bethenny Frankel's The Skinnygirl Dish)
-1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 cup warm water
-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
-powder sugar (for dusting)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix until just combined. 
3. Coat a loaf pan or 9" round cake pan well with non-stick cooking spray and pour in the batter.
4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Dust with powder sugar before serving.
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